Lenka Clayton took every word of President George W Bush's "Axis of Evil" State of the Union address in 2002 and rearranged them in strictly alphabetical order.
In ‘Qaeda quality question quickly quickly quiet’, George w bush’s infamous ‘axis of evil’ state of the union address is meticulously cut up and rearranged alphabetically. At once a gesture of joyful naivety and innocence, and also laced with the darker implication that this might be a more coherent way of finding meaning in the string of half-truths, platitudes and dangerous hyperbole. Once words such as ‘American’ are separated from sister words like ‘people’ we can start to consider the priorities of the political scriptwriter and examine in a more scientific way, the immediate structures of power. In a speech that is supposed to be about the contemporary state of America, there are few mentions of words such as ‘poverty’, or ‘teacher’. Instead we have countless ‘Americans’ and almost as many ‘terrorists’. In a nation in which you are more likely to die from eye cancer than a terrorist attack, it is clear what discourse this government is engaged in.
In Clayton’s piece, Bush remains, in principle, in tact, only his silences excluded and the intended meaning muted. The process again allows us to see the familiar from a position of the unfamiliar. A chance to see language and speech as a thing of wonder, not, as in this case, to encourage violence. The absurdity and simplicity of the structure allows us to rediscover the wonder of innocence. This sense is of course heightened by the sheer technical and moral feat of deconstructing, making and re-editing pieces such as these. Clayton’s total commitment to the rigour and principles of the process in each instance (no short cuts), constantly reinforces the wonder in the work, and creates a totally rigid structural and moral integrity.
Modern Painters July/August 2006 “Matthew Herbert on Lenka Clayton” Matthew Herbert
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